The Unit 9 School Board approved a referendum question to be placed on the April ballot.
The resolution approved is for “providing for and requiring the submission of the proposition of issuing $17,125,000 school building bonds to the voters of Community Unit School District Number 9, Iroquois County, Illinois, at the consolidated election” which is April 6, reads the paperwork made available at the Jan. 5 special meeting.
The board approved the question 7-0. The referendum, if passed, will allow the district to close Nettie Davis School, Glenn Raymond School and the unit office, except for the bus barn. The district will then be able to “get all of our schools out of the flood plain and on one footprint at the high school,” said Superintendent Dr. David Andriano.
The Nettie Davis building has flooded several times in the past few years and there has been talk of razing that building for quite some time.
Andriano said the district is going to have to make some major improvements to old buildings in the future should this referendum not be approved.
“Referendum or not we’re looking at a lot of deferred maintenance. We’re paying a lot extra money because we’re in flood plains,” he said. “So for $17 million you’re really getting $67 million dollars. The rates are really low right now.”
In getting rid of outdated buildings, renovating some and building new for others, the students will be getting updated “21st century learning”.
Andriano said as well as getting updated buildings, the district will save $40,000 a year by getting the buildings out of the flood plain. “We’re paying that in insurance each year,” he said.
The work would include building and equipping a new school building in Watseka, as well as altering, repairing, renovating and equipping portions of the existing facilities of the district and make site improvements at an estimated cost of $17,125,000.
The board has worked with a consultant, Robert Zummallen, to also obtain some state and federal grants.
The district has applied for a non-competitive state grant which, if approved, will help to raze the Nettie Davis building. The district could hear about that grant this spring. A federal Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant has also been applied for, but the district will not know for several months about the outcome of that grant. “We will essentially know by October and break ground the following summer,” he said.
Along with this referendum, the board is also working on some restructuring.
“The board has made a commitment to keep as many people as we can,” said Andriano about employees. “We do have a deficit budget. Closing Nettie Davis will help us in that respect. But for our employees, we don’t want to cut employees. We want a quality education. We want to keep our teachers. We want to make sure that works. What we’ve done is looked at the evidence based funding model, where for example, we have four sections but now because of declining enrollment we can go to three sections. But we can take that teacher and make them a reading specialist teacher or a math specialist teacher, or a curriculum director. These are things we are trying to put into place so that we can follow the evidence based funding model and support out teachers as much as we can.